Social Movements POLITIC4128

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

In this course students will examine the nature of contentious politics by focusing largely on the role that social movements play in political life. The past decades have seen widespread occurrences of ordinary people coming together under unlikely circumstances to challenge power. This has led to a surge in research on contentious politics across the disciplines of politics, sociology, anthropology, geography and even economics. This course will examine how and why much of this literature is dominated by an increasingly sophisticated account of social movements that have developed in specific contexts. Students will use these theories to examine the rise, nature and political influence of contemporary social movements. Finally, the course will train students to situate social movements as a form of contentious politics, and apply their knowledge of dynamics of contention to a host of contentious collective behaviour in and beyond western and democratic contexts.


This course may not be running this year. For further information please check the Politics Moodle page or contact the subject directly.

Requirements of Entry

Honours entry, as set out in the Undergraduate Course Catalogue

Excluded Courses





Student assessment will be based on one essay of 2,000 words (40% of the final mark), one exam (50% of the final mark) and participation in the weekly seminar (10% of the final mark). The participation mark will be based on the quality of student's participation in the weekly seminars and one presentation made in class.

Main Assessment In: December and April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses


Course Aims

In this course students will examine the role that social movements play in political life. Although politics scholars have spent a great deal of time studying collective action and interest group organizing as a general phenomenon, it is only relatively recently that much attention has been paid to the less institutionalized, more amorphous and often more radical types of collective action practiced within social movements. Despite this late start, the past two decades has seen a great deal of theorizing about social movements both within politics and sociology. Students will use these theories to examine the rise, nature and political influence of important social movements, both historic and contemporary. Potential case studies include: the labour movement, the new social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, revolutionary movements in the developing world and the contemporary anti-globalisation movement.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ distinguish between the concepts of collective action, interest group politics and social movements.

■ show a clear grasp of the grievance, resource mobilization, political opportunity structure and cultural approaches to studying social movements.

■ develop and support with evidence arguments to explain the rise, nature and influence of specific historic and contemporary social movements.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.